11/04/2009 16:01, Report by Steve Bartram
Sunderland 1 United 2
A week ago, few outside of Old Trafford had heard of Kiko Macheda. After two vital winners in the space of six days, however, the 17-year-old Italian has been catapulted into a starring role in United's ongoing Premier League title defence.
While last Sunday's winner against Aston Villa was a piece of last-gasp artistry, this input at the Stadium of Light had a touch of fortune about it, but it was still enough to procure three priceless points after Kenwyne Jones had cancelled out Paul Scholes' opener.
Three points was all the Reds deserved, it has to be said, for a performance which was occasionally slapdash, but largely dominant against a Sunderland side severely lacking in confidence after a poor recent run of form.
Sir Alex Ferguson made a host of changes to the side which contested Tuesday's pulsating draw with Porto, with the return of Jonny Evans and Dimitar Berbatov from injury providing a welcome boost. Cristiano Ronaldo, involved in 20 of the Reds' previous 22 games this year, dropped to the bench for a well-earned rest. Scholes was included alongside Michael Carrick in midfield, and the veteran schemer ensured United were ahead by the interval.
Only a heroic block from Calum Davenport stopped the midfielder's 20-yard blockbuster testing Craig Gordon after nine minutes. Shortly afterwards, Scholes again found space in the area but opted to find Rooney, whose cross sailed over.
Djibril Cisse saw his shot deflected over as the hosts briefly rallied, but United looked by far the more likely to make the breakthrough. A minute later, Nemanja Vidic powered Rooney's corner goalwards, only for Danny Collins to scuff the ball off the line. From the ensuing scramble, the Serb sent an acrobatic overhead kick a yard wide of Gordon's goal.
The Reds weren't to be